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The Samanid, or Samanian dynasty or the Samanid Empire was the first native dynasty to hold sway over a sizeable part of Persia after the Muslim Arab conquest. The Samanid  dynasty  (819–999) was named after its founder Saman Khuda, who converted to Sunni Islam from Zoroastrianism.

The Samanids are remembered for the impetus they imparted to Persian national sentiment, culture and language, as opposed to Arab culture and language  The Persian (Farsi) language was born and replaced Arabic as the official language, though the Samanids continued to encourage Arab culture.

The Samanids reigned for 180 years, encompassing a northeastern territory which included Khorasan (including Kabul), Ray, Transoxiania, Tabaristan, Kerman, Gorgan, and westward up to Isfahan. This territory corresponds to a part of Central Asia, a part of modern Iran and the most of modern  Afghanistan,


The Samanids claimed they were descendants of Bahram Chobin, and thus descended from the House of Mihran, one of the Seven Great Houses of Persia. Actually, the Samanids were probably Muslims from  the time of  Saman Khuda, who himself apparently came from the village of Saman in the province of Balkh Afghanistan and was converted to Islam by Asad ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Qasri, the governor of Kharasan. In his honor, Saman named his son Asad., The Samanids modeled their state after the Abbasids. They imitated the Caliph's court and organization. They were rewarded for supporting the Abbasids in Transoxania and Khorasan.

The four grandsons of the dynasty's founder, Saman-Khoda, were rewarded with provinces for their faithful service to the Abbasid Caliph al-Mamun in supressing a revolt. Nuh obtained Samarkand; Ahmad, Fergana; Yahya, Shash; and Elyas, Herat. Ahmad's son Nasr became governor of Transoxania in 875 CE. His brother and  and successor, Ismail I (892-907 CE) overthrew the Saffarids in Khorasan about 900 and the Zaydites of Tabaristan, thus establishing  semi-autonomous rule over Transoxania and Khorasan, with Bukhara as his capital.

Ismail is remembered in the history of Central Asia not only as a strong and capable politician, but also as an equitable ruler. He reformed the tax system and confiscated the possessions of some landowners.

The successors of Ismail could not continue his policy, and remained  under the influence of their Turkish guard, who later established the Ghaznavid dynasty, and alongside with the Qarakhanids ended the rule of the Samanids in 999 CE. However, in some respects the time of Ismail's successors was more important that his own. The time of Nasr ibn Ahmad (914 - 943 CE) is described by many authors as the golden age of the Samanid rule, because of flowering of literature and culture. The main role in this process was played by the Samanid viziers, among whom the two most important were Abu Abdellah Jayhani, and Abul Fazl Mohammad Balami. They made Bukhara the cultural centre of Persian civilization. The Bukharan emirate the Samanids established survived until 1920, when it was disbanded by the Soviets.

The Samanids never called themselves  Shahs or Caliphs, and adhered to the more modest title of Emir or Amir, suitable to a provincial governor.

Samanid Amirs

  • Saman Khuda (C 720)
  • Asad ibn Saman (c 780)
  • Yahya ibn Asad (819-855)
  • Nasr I (864 - 892) 
  • Ismail (892 - 907)
  • Ahmad (907 - 914)
  • Nasr II (914 - 943)
  • Nuh I (943 - 954)
  • 'Abd al-Malik I (954 - 961)
  • Mansur I (961 - 976)
  • Nuh II (976 - 997)
  • Mansur II (997 - 999)
  • 'Abd al-Malik II (999)

Ami Isseroff

Nov 8, 2010


Synonyms and alternate spellings: Samanian

Further Information:   Persia

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

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